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Chapter One: Mixen

Rosaline and I kept our hood drawn over our heads, eye down casted, as we entered a rundown apartment complex. Our pace was brisk but not frantic enough to draw attention to ourselves. The studio apartment we were squatting in might have been located in the darker parts of town but that did not mean our kind was welcomed. Mutt’s were not allowed to rent or own property in Starburst Shores. It made sense when you thought about it – we were widely considered property ourselves, bought and sold at auctions to the highest bidder. Property can’t own property. I let out a sigh as we slipped into the stairwell, tension melting from my shoulders as we started the climb to the fourth floor. Getting caught sneaking into our housing could easily land us into some rich man’s house as help.

And the only thing I’d be good at helping him with is his own death.

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“What took ya’ll so long?” A southern accent greeted our entrance into the small studio apartment. Rosaline’s pink eyes brightened at the reception, hands pawing at her hair in order assure its composure once her hood was removed. It was painfully obvious that Rosaline had a crush on our co-inhabitant, Tacha, but he was too blind to ever notice.

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“We stopped by the pawn,” I called, kicking off my shoes. Inside the main room was a beaten down couch, its stuffing leaking onto the floor, and our four sleeping bags. There was no use in purchasing real furniture – we never knew when we would be forced to leave our current dwellings. I threw the wad of cash, which wasn’t even half what all that jewelry was worth, into the pile of items that lay scattered in the center of the carpet. Tacha was perched on the worn-out sofa, playing solitaire. Even as Rosaline sat on the carpet below him, gazing adoringly at him, he barely bothered to flash her a smile.

“Oh, you robbed a guy?” Windsor’s dark hair fell into brilliant red eyes. His soft voice was only vaguely surprised. I shrugged, closing the gap between us. He spread his legs in anticipation and I slid in between them smoothly, his chest pressing against my back as one arm snaked around my middle.

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“I suppose you could say that.” I mumbled. Twisting my head, I pressed my lips gently against his. Windsor’s breathing hitched. It might have been a meaningless gesture to most but it was enough to make me pull back. We were supposed to be friends with benefits, no strings attached; but lately Windsor’s reactions seemed more fitted to a love-struck fool than a skirt-chasing pervert. Most women of my heritage would have been happy to have his full attention – he was handsome, nice enough and ranked high in the Mixen gang – any Mutt’s dream man.

Just not mine.

“We didn’t think you were gonna make it in time.” Tascha voice was distant, his eyes never leaving the deck of cards.

“I’d havta be dead or dying to miss one of Mixen’s meetings.” The irritation I harbored for the blue man must have tainted my tone because Windsor’s arms tightened around my waist and Rosa eyes widened, flickering back and forth between us with uncertainty.

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Tacha was the only one who didn’t respond to my tone, placing one card on top of another, “That’s good to hear, I guess.”

Monotone.

Disinterested.

The way Tacha reacted to everything as if it bored him to death made me want to strangle him but even as the rage boiled in my blood, Windsor’s gentle touch calmed my fury. His fingertips trailed down my arm and I found myself relaxing into him.

Hot breath spilled over my neck as Windsor’s hoarse whisper reached my ears, “Play nice. Appelsin will be here soon.”

As if Windsor’s words had summoned him, the front door squeaked opened. There was a moment of unease that filled the room. Windsor’s grip on me tightened. Rosaline eyes were wide. I held my breath. Even Tacha, who barely reacted to anything, paused in the middle of placing a card. Footsteps were muffled by carpet until, finally, orange shoes peaked around the hallway.

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The severe expression Appelsin wore wasn’t one of anger. The tension dissipated as quickly as it had arrive but did not go unnoticed, ”What’s with the sour faces?”

”We- I thought you might be upset about last time.” Winsdor conceded.

Appelsin seemed amused for a moment before he brushed a few strains of hair out of eyes, ”We have already discussed your failure. Do not let it happen again and you’ll be fine.” Orange eyes pierced through each of us as he spoke and we all averted our gaze in response. Even I didn’t want to pick a fight with Appelsin.

”It won’t.” Windsor’s confidence was reassuring and a smug smile found its was on my lips.

”Just the words I wanted to hear,” Appelsin’s voice didn’t match his words, tone serious and face blank, ”We need you to steal something from the Resistance.”

All four of us exchanged glances, a mixture of excitement and anxiety running through our veins. This was the biggest task they had ever entrusted to us but could we handle it? I knew my answer.

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“When do we start?”

“Always so eager, Lux,” A chuckle colored his speech, eyes bright with amusement, “I always liked that about you.”

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A/N: I know this is a really short chapter but….

I’ve decided to just update with what I can, when I can. That way you guys don’t have to wait as long for one update.

I’ve always been worried about word count but I think I’ve finally realized that this is my story and I can do what I want with it. I don’t have to try to live up to these obscure standards. 😛

Thank you, as always, for sticking with me and the Springs!

Windsor is asemwe’s!

Tacha is Shogunfish’s!